Age of Indifference

February 2003


Indifference may be the single biggest danger to the continued survival of the human race on planet Earth.

Here we are, at the start of a new millennium. You don't often hear people referring to our time like that any more, even though it's only 2/10 of a percent gone. We are seldom encouraged to dream of greater things that might yet be. The reason for that is plain: in order for greater things to succeed, existing things must fail or grow, and those who own the status quo (and 95% of the fourth estate1) guard against change of any kind. To me, these are the biggest reasons to oppose monopoly control of the media:

  1. Concentrating control of the media limits free expression by restricting access to dissenting opinions.
  2. When dissident opinions are limited, the people's ability to recommend viable, gradual change suffers.
  3. When gradual reforms do not happen, the government serves its people less and less well.
  4. When a government fails to serve the people, it serves itself: tyranny happens.
  5. When a tyrranical government eventually fails, it fails in a spectacular, bloody and extreme way.

In earlier times, we could allow this kind of revolutionary change to occur. Sure, thousands died needlessly, but the majority continued on and built upon the old foundation. In our technological age, we can kill so many so much more easily. The single rash act of violence that in ages past had limited effect, now results in genocide. By allowing the media to be used to support the concentration of world power in the hands of a few, we are bringing about a world in which hundreds of millions of people will die when revolutions happen.

People who do not agree with me, will call me simplistic. They will tell you that my argument does not take into account the many forces and factors that rule the progress of world events. They are right, to a point. What I have described is analogous to describing the law of gravity. Gravity alone is not the only force that rules our physical universe. But just try and ignore gravity in your approach to that physical world and see how far it gets you.

The most insidious and pervasive way in which the other estates seek to influence us is to engender apathy. "You can't fight city hall," is a pervasive message in the world today. It is restated in myriad ways: The problems are too big and complex (and expensive) to be addressed. You cannot influence events. Your vote does not count. Nothing you can do will make a difference. Better men and women than you have worked on solving these problems. Trying to make a difference will not work, but it will take away the time and energy you have that could be successful in other areas. And the worst part of these arguments is that they are, in a way, true.

One person can't have an appreciable effect on the world. The trick is to get together. Groups of people can have astounding and miraculous effects. This, too, is well known by the powers that be. As a result, generations of Americans have been schooled in the cult of the individual to the point that they are almost incapable of cooperating or collaborating with others. You just have to spend a little time in the confusing and hilarious world of corporate management to see how ill prepared people have become to work to achieve community goals with their compatriots. The corporate methodology is to find a crowd of "me first" people and then to manipulate them into seeing that their own selfish objectives will be achieved by accomplishing the goals of their employer.

There are many problems with this way of working things, not the least of which is that this system selects for people who have no principles. Their approach to any ethical issue begins with, "will I get caught?" and ends with "is the punishment worth the reward?" These are stunted people, arrested at a juvenile level of their personal development. They are stunted by a system that finds stunted people easier to manipulate. Another problem with this process is that many of those successful managers go into politics. This world is too fragile for selfish, unprincipled people to be in command.

Evidence for unprincipled opportunism is everywhere in government. The most troubling thing about our government's reaction to 911, et al, is the use of that event as an excuse for the implementation of an entirely new set of repressive measures. These measures are aimed at keeping people from being able to effectively organize together to oppose the people in power. I find it amusing that the people who profess to want "less government" are precisely those people who implement new, large government organizations to spy on ordinary citizens.

I am afraid for this country today. I am afraid because we have gone from a nation that understood that the inevitable result of repression is revolution, to a nation that understands that the iron fist is a damn good weapon. Apathy is unacceptable. Even if you can't stop an abuse, you have to oppose it. The legal maxim is: silentio consentum est (silence implies consent). When you watch injustice or murder happen, and do nothing, then you are guilty of complicity in that injustice or murder. When your government can disappear any citizen, without legal recourse, because they have been labeled an enemy combatant, they have stolen your citizenship without you even noticing. If you can be killed for thinking a thing, then what have you got to lose by doing the thing that you are thinking of? Successful governments actively maintain avenues for dissent as an option preferable to sedition. Unsuccessful governments kill opponents in droves.

Who cares? You do. You want a better world for your children. Regardless of what you think is the right way to arrive at a better world, being complicit in injustice and murder isn't it.

The "estates" are: the first estate, government; the second estate, clergy or religion generally; the third estate, the people; the fourth estate, the press.

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